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Chris Meck

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Apocalypse Meow 6 Preview: Chris Meck and The Guilty Birds

 
(Photos by Todd Zimmer)
 
Chris Meck is a mild-mannered, often soft-spoken man. Like his wife Abigail Henderson, he’s the type of person you instantly feel comfortable around, but in very different ways from her.
 
From a musical standpoint, Henderson was the bold frontwoman whose voice and presence commanded every room she performed in. She also lived with a ferocity that kept her strong through a five-year battle with breast cancer, taking the stage (at Knuckleheads) for the last time with Tiny Horse only weeks before her passing in late August (Read here for an interview with Henderson right before last year’s Apocalypse Meow to find out more about her).
 
On the other hand, Meck’s musicianship has typically been defined by its tastefulness. Though he plays with a finesse and texture that few other guitarists are able to pull off, he exudes a high volume of emotion and heart through each note. Likewise, he has been the perfect complement to Henderson’s big brazen personality and even larger heart. The two of them started Midwest Music Foundation five years ago, after Henderson was diagnosed with cancer. Apocalypse Meow was the name of the benefit originally held in her honor, and they helped provide the resources and manpower for it to continue as a benefit for musicians' health care for many years.
 
This will be Meow’s sixth year, and it’s expected to be the biggest one yet. Days before his wife passed, Meck decided he still wanted to play this show, as it had been a tradition since Henderson's benefit for the two of them to play the first night of Meow (they were unable to in 2011 due to Henderson’s illness). He had no idea what this project would eventually become, but he knew that it should happen.
 
“It’s not Tiny Horse, won’t even try to be,” said drummer Matt Richey. “Chris has his own approach to writing, especially now that he's taking on the role of frontperson; he's experimenting a lot too.”
 
Meck’s project The Guilty Birds will make its debut at The Midwestern Musical Co. for Apocalypse Meow 6 on Friday. It will be his first time as a frontman and primary songwriter of a band, both duties that Henderson assumed in all of their previous projects, which included Trouble Junction, The Gaslights, Atlantic Fadeout, and Tiny Horse.
 
“I stopped writing songs about 15 years ago. My tastes exceeded my grasp, so I decided I was probably a better guitar player and became a side man. I was playing with all these people that were prolific and I didn’t need to write,” he explained. “In our bands, Abby would usually bring in what she would call the bones. Basic musical changes, lyrics, melody. I would do the arranging. That’s kind of what I’m doing now, with the roles switched.”
 
 
Richey and Zach Phillips provided the rhythmic backbone of Tiny Horse since it was realized as a full band (Cody Wyoming also rounded out the five-piece), and remain with Meck in this new venture. “His writing is sharp and we're really making an effort to keep the focus on the songs, not overplaying as many trios tend to do,” stated Richey. “At its heart it’s still pretty straightforward rock ‘n roll, but there are elements of soul and country. It’s pretty high-energy as well. The more he continues to write, the more it will change.”
 
But Meck seems slightly concerned to be at the forefront. “I’m terrified,” he remarked. “But I’ve always heard... if something scares you, you should probably do it.”
 
He explained that he barely touched a guitar for about a month after his wife passed away. "She was the most prolific songwriter I knew. We played together for 10 years, just a couple months after we started seeing each other.” Not long before she passed, the two of them discussed her songwriting process. "Abby used to say, ‘ass in seat.’ Even when we were on tour, she would always be up early sitting in the corner of our hotel room with a guitar. So I sit down every morning with a notebook and fill it with drivel, waiting for something good to come out."
 
On Friday, The Guilty Birds will execute Meck's newly exercised songwriting process, debuting four original songs, along with a few covers. This year’s Meow will be notably different with Henderson’s absence, even more so while three-fifths of her band performs for the first time without her. "There will be a lot of nerves and it's likely to be quite emotional," said Richey. "I have no idea what to expect it to feel like, but I'll be up there with good people who I have a great deal of respect for and surrounded by a lot of friends. That's what matters the most.”
 
With Meck at the helm, it’s certain that he will take a divergent path from Henderson’s style of songwriting, but it will be handled with the same delicate sense of care and earnestness. “I don’t know if the end result is gonna be good or not, but I'm enjoying the process. It’s a new adventure for sure."
 
--Michelle Bacon
 
Michelle is editor of The Deli Magazine - Kansas City, and also plays drums Drew Black & Dirty Electric and bass in Dolls on Fire and The Philistines. Chris Meck is her all-time favorite tall guy (take that, Abe Lincoln) and has one of a very select few hug passes.
 
 
To find out more about MMF, visit http://midwestmusicfound.org. Find out more about Abby's Fund for musicians' health care also. Be sure to join Chris and The Guilty Birds at Midwestern Musical Co. on Friday, November 1 at 8 pm along with The Silver Maggies. It's a free, all-ages show, donations welcome. Head to the big event on Saturday night at Knuckleheads. Visit http://www.apocalypsemeow.net for a full lineup and schedule. Ticket link. Facebook event page.
 

Tiny Horse "Ride" from Jetpack Pictures on Vimeo.

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August 2013
Tiny Horse
"Darkly Sparkly (EP)
"
mp3
One horse. Very small. Packs a wallop.
 
Chris Meck and Abigail Henderson have given way more than their lion’s share to the Kansas City music scene. Whether through past efforts like The Gaslights or Atlantic Fadeout or being some of the driving forces behind the Midwest Music Foundation, Apocalypse Meow, and MidCoast Takeover, they should receive the deep admiration of anyone that sets foot on a stage in this town. Their latest musical endeavor, Tiny Horse, is no exception. Darkly Sparkly is a gorgeous collection of songs.
 
In the simplest of descriptions, the duo plays dark Americana. Ticklers of atmospheric instrumentation, provided by Meck, gambol upon the background, occasionally throwing the ball over the fence to take the melody reins or mingle with Henderson’s haunting vocals, but are quick to slink back to further delighting the sonic landscape.
 
But as everyone’s mother will tell you, life is not simple. Tiny Horse is the unfortunate poster band for this sentiment. You probably know the back story, but in case not, here is a link to an article from late 2012 by Timothy Finn over at The Kansas City Star that paints the picture.
 
Especially in that light, there are next to no words I can come up with to adequately describe the impact provided by the vocal performance. Henderson is able to speak from a place that few of us have ever been and she seemingly welcomes the opportunity to embrace these experiences and provide the listener with a small bathroom window into what it all has come to mean for her. Her voice is so beautifully imperfect—an ideal combination of coying, sweet and sassy as worked upon by the old rusty wood rasp from your grandfather’s tool shed.
 
Her lyrics say it best:
 
(reviewer’s note: these are the best transcriptions these old damaged musician ears can figure out)
 
From “Ride”:
“There’s no one left to ask, pictures of the past just sit in boxes underneath the bed
Money’s just a noose, the old excuse that fooled you into what you did instead.
Ride with me tonight. Let’s remember what it means to chase a little something.”
 
From “Ghost”:
“Why do you need me? Why do you want me? Cause I’m not done here. Leave me alone.
Take your old songs. Take your old singers. Leave me to write. The only world I’ve known.”
 
From “Nashville Parthenon”:
“It’s been so dark since you left Nashville. I’ve read the same books again and again.
Makes me wish I wasn’t bashful when it comes to other men.
But if I could have my way, darling, you’d come home.”
 
“Softly We Fall” is a tender ballad reminiscent of the final song of a junior high school barn dance somewhere in dusty West Texas circa 1958. Meck doesn’t offer his voice up too often on these tracks, but they are used to great effectiveness here. His mimicking vocals follow along on the chorus, “Softly we fall into each other’s arms. It was your fault when we kissed,” further adding to the nostalgic remembrances of adolescent courting. His guitar works also particularly stands out on this track, beautifully crafted and culminating with a simple yet scathing solo to carry the song home.
 

All in all, the music presented by Tiny Horse is just simply triumphant, the work of carefully seasoned (and hardened) musicians, also including multi-instrumentalist Cody Wyoming, bassist Zach Phillips, and drummer Matt Richey. It is sorrow meant to be remembered, celebrated, and enjoyed. The EP’s title, Darkly Sparkly, seems most appropriate. The KC music scene would be a much darker and less sparkly place without the efforts of Meck and Henderson.

--Zach Hodson 

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In Memoriam: Abigail Henderson, 1977-2013

(Photos by Todd Zimmer)

Music is an art. It’s something that needs to be tended, and the people who make it need to be cared for… The currency to building a city is investing in its artists.” —Abigail Henderson

The Kansas City music community has suffered an irreplaceable loss today with the passing of Abigail Henderson, who fought a long, courageous battle with cancer. With her husband Chris Meck, Abby co-founded Midwest Music Foundation when she was diagnosed in 2008, with the goal of providing health care assistance to musicians. Since then, MMF has given a number of grants to musicians with health emergencies. Apocalypse Meow, which began as a benefit for Abby, now benefits the musicians' emergency health care fund and will reach its sixth year in November.
 
With the conviction that musical talent from the Midwest rivaled that of anywhere else in the nation, she also helped create MidCoast Takeover, a regional music showcase at SXSW that reached its fourth and most successful year this past spring. The Deli named MidCoast one of the best unofficial showcases of 2012, and approached MMF to head up a Kansas City chapter. Thus, The Deli Magazine—Kansas City was born and thrives with Abby's goals in mind: to promote local music, foster talent, and provide a sense of community and inclusion among those who have a hand in KC music.
 
Abby was also frontwoman and songwriter of Tiny Horse, which began as a duo with Chris Meck and was eventually realized as five-piece band (link to video below). She was also in notable bands including Atlantic FadeoutThe Gaslights, and Trouble Junction.
 
I had the distinct honor and pleasure of interviewing Abby for The Deli KC last fall in preparation for Apocalypse Meow 5. If you want to know more about this amazing woman and read her words (because mine simply cannot do them justice), please click this link. And as a fellow musician/MMF staffer/friend, I want to personally thank Abby for her steadfast spirit, support, inspiration, beautiful stories and songs, friendship, and the wonderful people she's helped bring together as a result of all those things. And I'm certain that I'm one of a multitude of individuals that share this sentiment.
 
To commemorate Abby, please take a moment to find out more about MMF and its mission by clicking on the image below. Donations are always appreciated and will continue to benefit the musicians' emergency health care fund.

Thank you, Abby, for the effect you've had and will continue to have on the music community here. Kansas City has undeniably become a brighter, more vibrant place with you in it.

Tiny Horse "Ride" from Jetpack Pictures on Vimeo.

#shinealight

--Michelle Bacon

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Album review: Tiny Horse - Darkly Sparkly (EP)

(Photo by Todd Zimmer) 

One horse. Very small. Packs a wallop.
 
Chris Meck and Abigail Henderson have given way more than their lion’s share to the Kansas City music scene. Whether through past efforts like The Gaslights or Atlantic Fadeout or being some of the driving forces behind the Midwest Music Foundation, Apocalypse Meow, and MidCoast Takeover, they should receive the deep admiration of anyone that sets foot on a stage in this town. Their latest musical endeavor, Tiny Horse, is no exception. Darkly Sparkly is a gorgeous collection of songs.
 
In the simplest of descriptions, the duo plays dark Americana. Ticklers of atmospheric instrumentation, provided by Meck, gambol upon the background, occasionally throwing the ball over the fence to take the melody reins or mingle with Henderson’s haunting vocals, but are quick to slink back to further delighting the sonic landscape.
 
But as everyone’s mother will tell you, life is not simple. Tiny Horse is the unfortunate poster band for this sentiment. You probably know the back story, but in case not, here is a link to an article from late 2012 by Timothy Finn over at The Kansas City Star that paints the picture.
 
Especially in that light, there are next to no words I can come up with to adequately describe the impact provided by the vocal performance. Henderson is able to speak from a place that few of us have ever been and she seemingly welcomes the opportunity to embrace these experiences and provide the listener with a small bathroom window into what it all has come to mean for her. Her voice is so beautifully imperfect—an ideal combination of coying, sweet and sassy as worked upon by the old rusty wood rasp from your grandfather’s tool shed.
 
Her lyrics say it best:
 
(Reviewer’s note: these are the best transcriptions these old damaged musician ears can figure out)
 
From “Ride”:
“There’s no one left to ask, pictures of the past just sit in boxes underneath the bed
Money’s just a noose, the old excuse that fooled you into what you did instead.
Ride with me tonight. Let’s remember what it means to chase a little something.”
 
From “Ghost”:
“Why do you need me? Why do you want me? Cause I’m not done here. Leave me alone.
Take your old songs. Take your old singers. Leave me to write. The only world I’ve known.”
 
From “Nashville Parthenon”: (Editor's Note: "Nashville Parthenon" is a cover by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone)
“It’s been so dark since you left Nashville. I’ve read the same books again and again.
Makes me wish I wasn’t bashful when it comes to other men.
But if I could have my way, darling, you’d come home.”
 
 
“Softly We Fall” is a tender ballad reminiscent of the final song of a junior high school barn dance somewhere in dusty West Texas circa 1958. Meck doesn’t offer his voice up too often on these tracks, but they are used to great effectiveness here. His mimicking vocals follow along on the chorus, “Softly we fall into each other’s arms. It was your fault when we kissed,” further adding to the nostalgic remembrances of adolescent courting. His guitar work also particularly stands out on this track, beautifully crafted and culminating with a simple yet scathing solo to carry the song home.
 
All in all, the music presented by Tiny Horse is just simply triumphant, the work of carefully seasoned (and hardened) musicians, also including multi-instrumentalist Cody Wyoming, bassist Zach Phillips, and drummer Matt Richey. It is sorrow meant to be remembered, celebrated, and enjoyed. The EP’s title, Darkly Sparkly, seems most appropriate. The KC music scene would be a much darker and less sparkly place without the efforts of Meck and Henderson.
 
The next time you can catch Tiny Horse will be at The Brick on Wednesday, June 5. The group will be supporting out-of-towners Michael Dean Damron and Matt Woods.
 
--Zach Hodson
 

Zach Hodson is a monster. He once stole a grilled cheese sandwich from a 4-year-old girl at her birthday party. He will only juggle if you pay him. I hear he punched Slimer right in his fat, green face. He knows the secrets to free energy, but refuses to release them until "Saved by the Bell: Fortysomethings" begins production.

He is also in Dolls on Fire and Drew Black & Dirty Electric, as well as contributing to various other Kansas City-based music, comedy, and art projects.

 
 
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New single: "Ride" by Tiny Horse

(Photo by Michael Forester)

Tiny Horse, the dynamic duo of husband/wife team Abigail Henderson and Chris Meck is back at it again with a new single called "Ride," featuring Zach Phillips of The Architects, Matt Richey of The Grisly Hand, and Cody Wyoming. The single was recorded this week and mastered by Chad Meise.

The duo made its triumphant return to the stage back in April, and continues to go strong with intimate but powerful live shows, showing no signs of slowing down. This new single showcases Meck's seemingly innate talent on the guitar coupled with Henderson's unique, captivating voice. 

You can see Tiny Horse tomorrow (Friday, August 17) at The Brick as they perform with (of) Tree. 

--Michelle Bacon

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